Try a tablet that acts like a book.

Dual-screen tablet targets the textbook market

I’ve always liked the symmetry of books, how they open so neatly into two facing sides. So I’m finding myself drawn to a new breed of tablet that opens into two screens, like a book.

The one that has gotten a lot of buzz lately is the Kno, a dual-screen prototype tablet that was demoed at the Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference last week.

The Kno is targeting the textbook market. Most textbooks pose a problem for e-reader devices because they are bigger than regular books and have trouble fitting on e-reader screens. Both the iPad and the Kindle have screens that measure less than 10 inches.

The Kno’s two screens are each 14 inches wide, so readers don’t have to scroll up or over to see the whole textbook page. But the Kno weighs in at 5.5 pounds, so it’s no lightweight compared to the iPad, which weighs 1.6 pounds.

But consider its target market again. The Kno is still a lot lighter than the stack of textbooks it’s designed to replace. The two textbooks required for my business writing class weigh five pounds together.

Although no price has been set, the Kno is expected to cost less than $1,000 -- a bit steep compared to the iPad’s $500. But compare this to the cost of four years of hardcover college textbooks. The two books required for my class, new, add up to almost $230. Multiply that by four or five classes a semester over a few years and the total college textbook tab runs well into the four digits. The high cost of textbooks led the co-founder of Kno, Osman Rashid, to develop Chegg, a site that lets students rent textbooks rather than buy them, a sort of Netflix for textbooks. As an added incentive, Chegg will plant a tree for every book rented.

The Kno has a color touchscreen and a stylus for taking handwritten notes. It runs on its own Linux operating system and boasts a Tegra 2 chip and 16G OF storage. Each screen has its own four-hour battery, so the Kno will run for eight hours, the company said. And although it doesn’t have the 3G power of the iPad, the Kno will be Wi-Fi capable.

Kno has made agreements with the major textbook publishers, including McGraw Hill, Pearson and Wiley, so it will offer plenty of textbook content.

Tablets used to be duds but now they’re all the rage, thanks to the iPad. We’re still holding our breath for the Hewlett-Packard Slate that Steve Ballmer tantalized us with at this year’s CES. Kno will release a test version of its tablet in the fall, and begin selling it later in the year.

I have to say I’m intrigued by the Kno’s attempt to replicate the classic textbook experience in the digital age. I can see that there would be some advantages to slinging a Kno out of your backpack onto a library desk and poring over it for a few hours. Somehow that sounds like more of an immersive learning experience than scrolling through the same material on a smaller device.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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